What would the holidays be without those beloved Christmas performances? For generations, enthusiastic patrons of music halls and theatres have gathered together during this festive season to experience their favourite performers live and in person. It’s a proud Canadian tradition, and we at York Durham Headwaters have as much world-class talent taking the stage in venues throughout our region as you would expect to find in any metropolitan centre throughout the country.
This year, six-time Juno award winner Serena Ryder is on the road for her Christmas Kisses tour. Being such a renowned national artist, this mezzo-soprano sensation and accomplished musician, who has been praised for her technical virtuosity, is naturally making stops in major cities like Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. On December 19th, for one night only, she will be appearing at the Stephen Leacock Theatre in the small community of Georgina to delight an intimate audience and help raise their holiday spirits.
Serena Ryder first gained national recognition with her 2007 ballad “Weak in the Knees,” and has since gone on to record multi-platinum tracks like “Stompa” and “What I Wouldn’t Do.” An active advocate for various charities, she became a spokesperson for the Bell Let’s Talk mental health awareness campaign in 2015, and in 2018 received the Margaret Trudeau Mental Health Advocacy Award for her work with mental health. In her 2018 holiday album titled Christmas Kisses, she brings her own blend of jazz influence and husky timbre to familiar seasonal classics in what has been described as a true passion project.
The Stephen Leacock Theatre has brought some significant national talent to its stage over the years. Famous performers include Rita MacNeil, Jeff Healey, Jully Black, and the Yuk Yuk’s comedy troupe. But it has also been a strong supporter of home-grown talent since its inception, supporting local theatre groups, comedy acts and stage productions. This is the first time, though, that a star as critically acclaimed as Serena Ryder has played at the Stephen Leacock. “We’re always trying to build on the talent that we bring to the theatre, and we’re definitely looking forward to what 2020 will bring,” says Patti White, Manager of Recreation Services with the Town of Georgina.
The Stephen Leacock Theatre opened in 1985, and was named after Canadian teacher, political scientist, writer and humorist, Stephen P. H. Butler Leacock. With only 295 seats, the theatre is known for its intimate ambience. Patti says, “We’re fortunate enough to have the Stephen Leacock Theatre to bring in such great talent. It’s an up-close and personal atmosphere, so you can expect something unique from our performances here.”
The building itself is multifunctional, with the theatre located on one side, and a senior’s centre located on the other. This, you can imagine, leads to some wonderfully unique synergies within the building. Staff at the Stephen Leacock Theatre strive to improve their offerings and provide wonderful cultural experiences in Georgina. It is a focus of the theatre’s 2020 lineup, with which staff are trying to grow and expand. Despite this active push for growth, the theatre remains a hometown venue as well, and showcasing local talent remains a priority. For example, the Stephen Leacock has just recently hosted its second annual Georgina Christmas Concert, which features local talent to ring in the holiday season. Additionally, with its expansion in offerings, the theatre is looking to improve its facility so that it can continue to provide these unique experiences to visitors and residents of Georgina. “One of the projects we’re working on for 2020 is putting new handrails into the theatre,” Patti says. “We want to keep improving the site itself.”
Since announcing the Christmas Kisses performance, the Internet has seen a buzz of enthusiasm. Followers of the town’s social media platforms have commented through tweets and posts to express how much they love Serena Ryder. “People just adore her,” Patti comments. “They’re definitely excited that she’s coming to our community to help get us all into the holiday spirit.”
“It’s a show you won’t want to miss,” she adds. “In a smaller community like Georgina, having such an amazing and nationally-loved talent like Serena Ryder in such an intimate setting is certainly unique.”
The Serena Ryder Christmas Kisses show takes place at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 19th at the Stephen Leacock Theatre, 130 Gwendolyn Blvd., Keswick. Tickets are $79 plus HST and can be purchased at the theatre box office, or online through TixHub at https://secure1.tixhub.com/georgina/online/index.asp.
Story by Katherine Ryalen